It was almost three months ago when this amazing image popped up on John McCune's Instagram feed. "Jesus!" I thought. That looks stunning. And scary. That looks scary!
I got in touch with John about the route and he said: "It's not a new route, but a second ascent I guess. Of Colm Shannon's route; The Crozzle Monster. Colm has put a lot of time into the Burren DWS. His ascent of Skin Deep was the last of the Burren DWS routes he had to tick off. An amazing acomplishment."
I dropped Colm Shannon a line to find out more about these perfect limestone DWS routes and I was greeted by a climber whose enthusiasm for his home area was infectious. His eyes were originally opened to the DWS potential of Ailladie back in 2010 by well known soloist Julian Lines.
Colm told me:
"So yeah, with the DWS, I came home from my first year of college in, realised I lived five minutes from Ailladie, and pretty much went nuts for trad. At the time I was aware of Ricky [Bell] and friends having put up a few DWS, but didn't know exactly where they were, or the logistics of how I'd go about doing them, so I never gave them much thought.
Then around 2010 Jules appeared for a month, and it blew my mind seeing him working The Hobo on a top-rope, and seeing him the following weekend top out Skin Deep. He showed me how he set up a rope to get out of the water, so after he left I built my own rope ladder, and got a dingy from Smith's to get a wall topo (it's on the Irish wiki) and went to town pretty much."
Colm's ticklist of the hard DWS routes of Ailladie is exhaustive. I asked him how he built up to the harder routes:
"I started with King Crozzle, which I did ground-up, second ascent, and then the Hobo third ascent. At this point it was still totally off everyone's radars, but I fired up a few vids [some are posted below] and some of the Dublin crew got a bit of interest. I put up Crozzle Monster in 2012 after returning from Ceuse with some fitness finally, having looked at it like a year and a half previously. It's an amazing complex line, and finally saw a second ascent a few weeks back [from John McCune]. The following summer during a heat wave I put the word out and we had a little impromptu DWS fest!"
"It was epic. A rope on every line. Loads of psyche. I brought the gas BBQ from the house to the top of the crag. I got some motivation after some burgers and a beer, and managed to do Identity Crisis (third ascent I think), and that's pretty much it. Skin Deep was the last thing on my to do list, and with all the free time on my hands I have now, I finally had a chance to nip up it for the second ascent I think."
I was impressed - that's a great ticklist of hard and very condition-dependent routes. Looking on the wiki it is clear that these routes (that are between 20 and 35m high!) are not light undertakings, even if the crag does ease off in its upper third. Not only do you need good climbing conditions, but the sea must be calm too to attempt these huge DWS lines. Colm told me he was about to head off to Europe for a year in his van, but then at the last minute he got back in touch to ask me to hold off on publishing this article...
With just a few days left in the country, Colm messaged me to say: "I've found one final line that blows everything else out of the water..."
That route became:
The Jelly Situation *** 28m F7c+/8a (S1)
The big line on the wall. Start from the Seabird belay. Traverse left, staying low initially, before moving up to an obvious jug on the wall. From there, move left to a leftwards facing jug, and then up, where a hard move gains you the overlap. Step left, and then sequence up through the overlap and pumpy headwall.
This has hard climbing at height. Best done at high tide as a result, and I'd also recomment having someone on the Seabird ledge ready to act as life guard. Hanging a rope ladder from the Seabird belay provides the most convienent escape.
FA C. Shannon 12/06/16
Congratulations to Colm, and have a great trip to Europe
VIDEOS: Colm Shannon DWS
About the author: Jack Geldard is a consulting editor at UKClimbing.com. He also works as a climbing instructor and coach, holding the Mountain Instructor Award. He is also a trainee British Mountain Guide.
He has climbed in 5 of the 7 continents, up to a very high level, and enjoys all forms of climbing, from winter alpinism through to summer bouldering. He's still not overly keen on falling off though...
His particular favourite styles of climbing are UK seacliffs, classic Alpinism, and multipitch sport climbs. Or pretty much anywhere sunny.
- He's available for Instruction, Guiding and Coaching in North Wales this summer.
- You can read a little more about him on his own website: Jackgeldard.com